In game three of the one day series, a lot of blame should fall on the shoulders of the rather pedestrian looking Australian middle order. An apparently less pressing question is who should open with David Warner.
Whilst Warner was blazing the ball to all corners of the SCG, his opening partner was grundling his way to 43 off 63 balls. More problematic was his slow start. Despite Warners hot start, Australia struggled to keep their run rate over 6.
Who should be Warners partner at the top of the order? In the 50 over game, by definition - there are a limited number of overs. Further, the best opportunity for genuine shot-makers to score is the first 15 overs. After this, the game degenerates into a singles fest. Recent one-day opening stands on average last about 8 overs. Say it takes the first drop 15 balls to get set, we are looking at the start of the 12th over to have the number three established.
Who should bat at the top of the order? Well, the best batsman in the team. This maximises the potential number of balls that the best batsman can face. It maximises the number of balls that the best batsman can face with the fielding restrictions imposed. It is pretty obvious that Ricky Ponting is that player.
Why then, does Ricky Ponting bat 3rd? Say what you will about Ricky's captaincy, he is Australia's best batsman. The idea of letting openers take the shine off the new ball in test matches to "protect" the number three makes logical sense. However, the same logic cannot apply in the limited overs game. From the school, to warehouse cricket and beyond the idea of the importance of protecting the "first drop" is ingrained. However, a simple look at the nature of one-day cricket would suggest otherwise. I have been massively critical of some of captain Ricky's tactical decisions over the years, but he could go a long way to wiping the slate clean with a brave call here.